Simpson: Fix the deficit or your grandkids will pick grit with the chickens
Newly minted Republican deficit commissioner Alan Simpson has a message for Americans: if you don’t want your grandkids picking grit with the chickens, better ignore soundbite politics and get lawmakers to find real solutions to the deficit.
President Barack Obama Thursday named Simpson, a former Wyoming senator, and Erskine Bowles, the head of the University of North Carolina, to lead a bipartisan panel searching for ways to cut the deficit.
Obama called Simpson “a flinty Wyoming truth-teller.”
The former lawmaker quickly embarked on some truth-telling.
Appearing with Bowles on “PBS NewsHour,” Simpson was asked about Republicans who believed that tax cuts were needed now, even if they raised the deficit in the short term.
“I’m not smoking that same pipe,” he replied.
Both he and Bowles said everything would be on the table — from tax increases to program cuts — as they talked to members of both parties about how to bring down Washington’s record budget deficits.
“We have a deficit-to-GDP ratio today of 10.6 percent,” said Bowles, a former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton who helped negotiate the last balanced budget deal.
Bowles said the interest on the national debt over the next decade would increase by $650 billion.
“That’s $650 billion we could spend on innovation, on research, on education,” he said. “If we don’t do things like that, we’re not going to be able to compete in a knowledge-based global economy. This is a big, big issue.”
Asked how they could accomplish anything in bitterly partisan Washington, Simpson said, “If we’re going to use flash words like cutting children’s benefits or cutting veterans or raising taxes, it will be a tougher struggle.”
Scare tactics and gotcha politics won’t get the job done.
“This is sound-bite business. And that’s great. That gets you re-elected,” Simpson said. “But it won’t help the country.”
He said he would prefer to deal with facts rather than hot-button scare tactics.
He said the last time Congress tweaked the Social Security insurance program for retirees, they adjusted the payroll tax by just a tenth of a percent.
“If that makes people shriek and go over the edge of the cliff,” he said with a shrug. “You have two choices with Social Security. You either raise the payroll tax or decrease the benefits.”
Either that or adjusting benefit levels based on affluence, a proposal guaranteed to anger retirees.
“Try that one on,” said Simpson. “Man, oh, man, there’s a big one.”
“But the rest of it is B.S.,” he said, “and if the people are really ingesting B.S. all day long, their grandchildren will be picking grit with the chickens.”
Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Reed (Obama shares a laugh with a deficit commissioners Bowles and Simpson)